One by one, the women suffer for us. Pinned by the camera as if they were butterflies, they retell their stories. The narratives share a thread: A hopeful younger self just breaking into show business meets a big-name moviemaker, and the encounter devolves into threats, exhibitionism, unwanted physical contact or violence. Fighting back tears or shaking with anger, they talk about being trapped, disgusted, about freezing up, dissociating, hearing their career prospects are dead. When they speak, we squirm in sympathy.
They are a handful of the accusers of Harvey Weinstein, who is to be tried in January on charges of rape and other sex crimes in what will probably be the next moment of reckoning in the #MeToo movement. (Weinstein denies having ever had nonconsensual sex.)
‘Untouchable’, a documentary by Ursula Macfarlane, now streaming on Hulu, credibly reviews the revelations thus far and effectively pieces together the words of the accusers, former Weinstein employees and the journalists who brought the story to light. Notably, Macfarlane presents the recorded voice of a cornered-sounding Weinstein pleading with a woman and a series of voicemail messages he left in connection with one encounter that ended in a settlement and nondisclosure agreement.
Male employees also acknowledge his flamethrower temper. One calls Harvey Weinstein an “equal opportunity abuser,” while another says he has dodged missiles his boss hurled, including a five-pound marble ashtray.
The ultimate documentary on the subject — if one film can encompass it all — will be deep and sweeping. It will offer nuanced insights into women’s struggles with a man who could snap them in two professionally and perhaps physically. It will examine the pathology of power in the service of self-gratification and self-protection — from the law and from accountability.
At this point, as the film rightly notes, the problem is not over. The #MeToo movement is too new for us to know if it will bring lasting change. But for now, we have ‘Untouchable’, a respectable and all-too-real introduction to a chilling chapter of a Hollywood horror story.
Don’t miss it!
‘Untouchable: The Fall of Harvey Weinstein’ is showing at Cinema Akil.